Daily update from Japan | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists

Follow-up to the mistaken radioactivity reading, from Tatsujiro Suzuki. He points out why accurate readings are important (see the underlined part, my emphasis):

Monday, March 28, 11 a.m. ET, Tokyo


Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) released new information late last night that reports it was cesium 134 — not iodine — and it was 2.3 million Becquerel (Bq) per cubic meter. Still, repair efforts have been suspended due to high radiation.

Mistakes could be fatal. Hope the operation team’s high spirit remains unchanged.

Sunday, March 27, 11 p.m. ET, Tokyo

Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) announced that the data on the high concentration of radioactive iodine 134, which was published this morning, was found to be wrong. They will announce the new data later. The previous data, experts pointed out, suggests that the core is critical.

via Daily update from Japan | Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists.

And a commenter on the BraveNewClimate blog points out:

It’s possible (perhaps likely) the radiation spike at reactor 2 yesterday was in error. The technician took a reading that was a million times higher than expected, and rather than taking a second reading, bugged out. Honestly, who among you would have waited to take a second reading?

Not me!

World Nuclear News has a good summary of the events here, and their significance (from March 27th):

The origin of the water remains unknown, but readings by Tokyo Electric Power Company (Tepco) have shown very significant radiation dose rates near the pools in the lower levels of the turbine buildings. In unit 2 doses from the water’s surface are 1000 millisieverts per hour, in unit 3 this is 750 millisieverts per hour while unit 1 shows 60 millisieverts per hour.

Reconnection work to bring normal cooling systems and diesel generators back into operation requires access to these areas, on the first floor and basement of the turbine building. The necessity of this work forced Tepco to immediately begin pumping the water for storage in the hot wells of the condenser units higher up in the building. This is already happening at unit 1 while preparations are made to do the same at units 2 and 3.

 It was at unit 3 on 24 March that three workers were inadvertently exposed to radiation from the pools  …  The high doses from the water come from the rapid decay of radionuclides with short half lives. This leads officials to presume the water comes from the reactor system … pressures in the reactors have not dropped, indicating no large-scale pipe break. The primary containments of unit 1 and 3 are thought intact, although damage is suspected at unit 2.  

Media coverage of the pools has been complicated by a mistake in Tepco’s reporting which put the level of radioactivity in the water at ‘ten million times’ the normal level for reactor coolant. The company has retracted this, explaining that the level it reported for iodine-134 was actually for another radionuclide with a longer half-life and therefore a lower activity rate.

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